First published in
It’s not just the Friends reunion, we’re all nostalgia-obsessed right now.
Whether we’re posting a throwback on social media, celebrating the reunion of Bennifer, singing along to Fleetwood Mac, or counting down the days until the Sex and The City reboot, a good dose of nostalgia can feel like a comfort blanket in these ‘unprecedented times’.
The pandemic hasn’t just made our passion for nostalgia more prevalent, it’s made our ‘nostalgia loop’ shorter. We reminisce over life before the pandemic, even the start of lockdown. A time when we were all watching Tiger King, baking banana bread and trying to learn the Savage dance on TikTok. With varying degrees of success.
Scroll down memory lane
Social media platforms are stoking the flames of this short-term nostalgia too. Spotify gives us the soundtrack to our year every December and Facebook reminds us of what we were doing just a couple of years prior. ‘Friendiversarys’ prompt you to post throwbacks with your besties and there’s a whole tab dedicated to ‘on this day’ memories. Or you might use an app like Timehop, that syncs your social memories from all your platforms.
New social platforms, like Dispo, are even more focused on throwback vibes. Initially launched as ‘David’s Disposable’, Dispo mimics the experience of taking a disposable camera on a night out. There are no editing tools or captions and the images “develop” i.e. show up on your phone, the next day.
Gen Zers are particularly tuned into nostalgic aesthetics on social media, whether they were around for that particular time period or not. The Y2K aesthetic – think Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie vibes – is huge on TikTok with 2 billion views. Then there’s the nineties, Nirvana-inspired grunge aesthetic with 154M views. Even Aesthetics Wiki, a comprehensive encyclopedia of online and offline aesthetics, has a distinct Windows 95 design style.
Perhaps the reason TikTok is such fertile ground for nostalgia is its musical focus. There’s nothing like a song to bring back memories and TikTok challenges are inextricably linked to music. Whether it’s Lil Nas X or Olivia Rodrigo, they clearly mark a moment in time. Even posting the song months after the trend will attract short-term nostalgic comments.
Brands are riding the wave of nostalgia in a bid to connect with their sentimental customers. Fashion brands like Cotton On stock official Friends merch, just in case all those crop tops and baggy jeans weren’t nineties enough for you. Meanwhile Skims, Kim Kardashian West’s lingerie and loungewear brand, went all out aughts with for the launch of their velour collection. With Kim and pal Paris Hilton posing for staged pap pics that felt oh-so 2006.
Beauty brands are leaning in like never before. Lancôme relaunched the early aughts staple, Juicy Tubes last year, with genius social media pics that featured a hot pink Motorola Razr phone. While brands like Topicals regularly feature pop culture throwbacks in their Instagram feeds.
Earlier this year Old Spice launched their first barbershop in Ohio. While it’s all tradition in the front, heavy on the nautical they’re famous for, they have a content studio out the back. So they can keep up with the modern day digital demands.
Marketing the memories
There are plenty of ways brands can appeal to nostalgia, without dedicating entire product lines to it. Through content and social marketing, brands can tap into this trend, enhancing their relevancy and awareness in the space.
Brands of any size can celebrate their anniversaries. Whether you’re a new business that’s made it through the gruelling first year, or an established brand with whole archives to uncover. Celebrating your own history – or having your customers celebrate it for you via UGC – is a great way to tap into nostalgia.
You could even try tracking the history of a topic or product that your brand is known for. On Vamp’s blog, we traced the evolution of social media and it continues to be one of our most visited articles.
It can easily translate to influencer marketing too. Creators can share stories and memories about your brand. This person-to-person connection will resonate more strongly with your customers than a brand account. Try briefing influencers to use your products to recreate old fashion, beauty and home looks. Or share their earliest memory connected to your brand. This works especially well with products that already spark strong memories, like fragrance.
Of course relevancy is important. Brands should only zone in on nostalgic aesthetics if they align with your brand – or your customer base – so the references seem natural. But if you can get it right, nostalgia can pack an emotional punch that will help your brand stand out in a cluttered social space and be remembered.